Things may seem special at a first glance. Why in the world the Ecumenical Patriarch officially issued as a canonical decision of the Holy Synod of the Phanar that Archbishop Jean (Renneteau) of Charioupolis, head of the dissolved Exarchate and Archdiocese of the Parishes (Churches) of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, is unloaded of his and any responsibility of the communities of France (thus) “handed over to the local archpastor”, Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of Gauls.
This was published and it is official, at least it came out from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Ever since, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls who is quite active in all the recent activities of the Phanar, whose See is in Paris and who is the only “canonically recognized” head of the Conference of the Orthodox Bishops in France, did not show anywhere and did not say a word, safe error or omission.
The canonical status of the “primus inter pares” among the episcopal and/or metropolitan-ranking heads of the French capital and suburb is not clear as for nowadays. Especially since the Patriarchate of Moscow, following the creation of the “Orthodox Patriarchate in Ukraine”, appointed a new hierarch in Paris, first Mgr Jean (Roschine),and then Mgr Antonyi (Sevryuk) of Korsun (Chersonèse) who were given the rank of Metropolitans of the newly created Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Moscow in Western Europe. At this point, this means that Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls has non-recognized and subsequently non-canonically accepted colleagues due to the hapax of the presence of a canonical metropolitan assigned by the Orthodox Church of Moscow. Not to mention that there is a third hierarch appointed in Paris with the same title of “Metropolitan” of Korsun, Mgr Michel Laroche who was appointed as such by the new Holy Synod of the brand new Orthodox Patriarchate in Ukraine.
This is the first embattled aspect of the situation. Who’s who?
The second appointment mentioned by the communiqué of the Phanar (1) is that they chose to appoint Archpriest Alexis Struve as the Dean of the “church” of Saint Alexander Nevsky, the renowned cathedral located in Paris at the Rue Daru.
As for now, it seems that the “chosen” archpriest did not utter a word either. For sure, things go on. It is evident, but no buzz and this is quite understandable. Father Alexis is the son of Father Pierre Struve who served in French at the Crypte, down the Saint Alexander Nevsky cathedral. a man and a priest who was and remains very appreciated. His son served at the Crypte before he left for Ukraine and he just came back to France after a leave of five years. In the past two years, he used to serve once a month – officially – at the cathedral and in Slavonic.
His wife, Anne Struve, recently wrote a moving letter that she shared with the concerned groups that work on the future of the Archdiocese. She explained what their family experienced in Kyev for five year. Her husband served in the framework of the patriarchate of Moscow. Father Alexis had also written that he spent all his life within the Patriarchate of Constantinople as his family and relatives did and that he wants to stay in the jurisdictional structure of the Phanar.
Silence can also be raised by some unclear aspects of the appointment of Fr. Alexis Struve as the Dean of the cathedral. He is not a University professor. His cousin, a layman, deeply involved in the knowledge of the Russian Orthodox Church, Daniel Struve, is the Director of the “Les Editeurs Réunis Editions” and book store, the son of the renowned late professor of Russian and Slavistics, Nikita Struve, who passed away three years ago.
Daniel Struve has written very insightful notes on the development of the Russian Orthodox Churches and, although he was not in favor of joining the Patriarchate of Moscow – he fought this alternative for years – he explained that there is no other way at the present. Moreover, he developed the related arguments that this direction is the only eventuality to keep the identity of the reality of the former Archdiocese.
This is the second embattled aspect of the situation. Who did the Holy Synod of Constantinople assign to be the Dean of the cathedral? Is there a mistake? Possibly yes.
At first glance indeed, it seems a bit difficult to understand what the Phanar decided and how it can be real, substantial. It sounds a bit out of the green cheese at the present. Is it a fancy that people can deny and mock? Are the members of the Holy Synod of the Phanar “ignoramus”? It sounds bizarre.
On Saturday last (08/31,2019), it appears that I went to the Rue Daru cathedral. There were two people at the French-speaking Crypte, but I was told that the Vigils were not really scheduled. In fact, I sat on the edge of some plants, opposite the main entrance of the cathedral and waited. Abp Jean of Charioupolis came at 6 pm. He did not ask me anything and started explaining that “they” (the Greeks) want to erase the Archdiocese. He told me about his encounter with HH. Bartholomaios in Geneva. He spoke and spoke and in fact, it was quite interesting. He told me then: “They gave me a leave that I never have asked to them!”
I looked at him into the eyes and said: “They just saved you!” Abp Jean stared at me for a few seconds and I told him that it is a real blessing if he really was granted a canonical leave after he had met with the Ecumenical Patriarch, in the presence of Metropolitan of Switzerland Maxim. In terms of “ecclesiastical and patriarchal practice”, Mgr Jean could have been suspended a divinis or so… dismissed quite a long time ago. After more than one hour of discussion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, they could speak of different aspects of the life of the Archdiocese. Abp Jean explained it has been and remains very difficult for him to convey the task. HH. Bartholomaios answered that there will be no way back to an independent Archdiocese of the Russian parishes. Abp Jean and all the parishes of the archdiocese have to submit to the Greek metropolia in all the countries where they are present. It should not mean the disappareance of the Russian traditions so far or supposedly.
By granting a personal and unique “canonical leave” to Abp Jean of Charioupolis, the Phanar expressed something special. We are right now in the course of the week that leads to September 7th next. On that Saturday, the clergy and the elected laypeople -representatives of the parishes will meet to normally decide and elect what the future of the Archdiocese should be. There are other points.
At the very beginning, in February and in May, Abp Jean explained that if the Phanar depose him, he would go the Patriarchate of Moscow. In terms of historicity, this would pre-suppose that the Archdiocese could be accepted, under some conditions into the Patriarchate of Moscow who made true propositions that have been discussed between Abp Jean and some representatives of the Archdiocese. In view to integrate the structure into the Church of Moscow and allow it to continue to act as their rites and ustav have developed for decades.
It makes no sense to discuss the viability of the project. Just there is the project of such a “return” to Moscow and the Mother Church – some people would consider that Moscow is no more the Mother Church and they speak, ask and require “local Churches and parishes”, which hardly can be evident at the present.
Still, he point is interesting even if it sounds a bit “new, brand new”. Indeed, Mgr Jean has the possibility to turn to the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow and prove that he is free to join the Patriarchate of Moscow canonically. Moscow could say that the leave is given in a period when the Communion between Constantinople and Moscow are on hold. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk and declared that all the members (clergy) of the Archdiocese are welcome into the Patriarchate of Moscow, without letters of dismissal (leave). Mgr Jean, at least, would be canonical to look to be accepted by another patriarchate, namely the Church of Moscow.
His “leave” is unique and personal. It does not concern anybody else. These are the words of the decision. Now, he can take the liberty – the liberty because the present situation of the Archdiocese is no more canonical since November 18, 2018, and his own situation is no more canonical for the Patriarchate of Constantinople since August 31, last.
Frankly, what does it mean?
The decision of the Phanar dated August 31, 2019 mentions Abp Jean of Charioupolis alone and as head of the parishes in France. For the Greek metropolia in Western Europe, things are on the move and some parishes did join their local Greek metropolia, placing their faithful and clergy and properties in the hands of the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Some parishes are playing a double-sided game, pretending to”clutch” to the Archdiocese though it is evident that they have passed to the Greek metropolia for reasons of sustain.
The Ecumenical Patriarch and Metropolitan Maxim of Switzerland insisted, during the meeting with Abp Jean, that the Extraordinary General Assembly does not exist anymore and should not take place on Saturday, 7th of September 2019 at the Convent of the Dominicans.
To begin with, the “leave” granted by HH. Bartholomaios of Constantinople (could, would, will) save the archbishop because he can quit the Phanar where he has served with full confidence and dedication for forty years.
On the other hand, it gives him – now to what extent and how far the Greeks can give their consent – the opportunity to switch canonically to Mosco and the canonical members of the clergy, with the consent of their parishioners can also vote to join the Patriarchate of Moscow. It depends how many are ready to leave their “stand-by and often too free position” to reunite with the Patriarchate of Moscow. But while Abp Jean can make use of his canonical leave, the clergy and laity can follow and go to Moscow where they should be accepted.
This is not basically negative from the part of Constantinople as for now. Their position may evolve.
According to the Statutes of the Archdiocese, there is more and this is also one of the “embattled” aspects of the situation. As a consequence of the history of the Archdiocese, in particular, when, after the Revolution, the Patriarchate of Moscow tried to get back the premises and church-parishes, most of them had adopted the system in use in France and other countries. The associations that are recognized by the French Republic and the Church were declared as legally in charge of the management of the official possessions of each “association cultuelle”.
What can be next? Abp Jean of Charioupolis declared that he does not recognize the leave and dismissal of his responsability as the head of the Archdiocese. He immediately came to serve at the cathedral. He explained to his clergy that he should be remembered in the dyptiques and that life goes on, the meeting of the EGA will take place. Equanimity and serenity.
When Abp Job of Telmessos was the head of the Exarchate from December 5, 2013, till November 28, 2015.
When I started posting about the evolution of the Archdiocese, I had been told that parishes and/or rectors (Strasbourg is an example) had decided to leave the Archdiocese and that they then had been accepted in the Patriarchate of Moscow. With or without “leaves” sounds quite uncertain at the present as if the Canon Laws would not play their traditional role entrusted to the correct management of Church life.
In fact, Abp Job sent a note to me, when he heard of my posts, asking for the names of the clergy and parishes who had left. I contacted three well-informed Russian Orthodox persons who ascertained that no list or statistics of such “leaves” are available.
At present, the Orthodox clergy and parishes come and go. There is indeed the question of how this functions, to begin with, in France. The Patriarchate of Constantinople seems to consider that pastoral activities and buildings, ownerships are in the same bunch.
At present, Abp Jean of Charioupolis should no more be considered as in charge of the parishes of the Archdiocese. And Metropolitan Emmanuel should replace him. It is definitely a question of being recognized or not by the clergy and the laity. In France, the parishes “should” now depend upon the representatives of the Greek Phanar. Those who do not agree can leave, either by receiving a real “leave”, but no more granted by Abp. Jean. He is off. At least canonically after the canons in use by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
According to the Canons of the Orthodox Church and the rules in force in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, volens nolens, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls is indeed the true head of the “ancient” Archdiocese and he stressed today, (09/03, 2019) that he becomes the Locum Tenens of this structure in France,whilst other hierarchs of the Phanar are in charge (according to the Canons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and thus of the Orthodox tradition) of the churches and monastaries that depend(ded) upon the Archdiocese in the other European countries (Netherlands, Great-Britain, Italy, Germany and Denmark). In Italy, the “clarification” toward a switch to the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Italy and Malta led some parishes to join it while others chose the Church Abroad (Rocor).
Indeed, and this is the very intriguing point: Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls and the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople took a-typical and contradictory decisions without any contact with the concerned flock exactly in a very similar way as they intervened in Ukraine with the creation of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
One priest, Fr. Vladimir Zelinsky, expressed this clearly: he wants to keep the structure and tradition of the Archdiocese. Born in Soviet Union, a renown author and thinker – a former dissident – he is definitely Russian and wrote that his flock disappeared when Moscow broke the Eucharistic Communion with Constantinople. There is a large neighboring Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish in the vicinity of his own church. As for now, many expats from the Federation of Russia or Ukraine dare not communicate in his parish that is not in communion with the Patriarchate of Moscow.
When they met in Geneva, Patriarch Bartholomaios told the Archbishop that he got his rank from his hands and should remember that. This can show some instillation of new actions that may come up in the coming hours or days. By the way, on Tuesday 3rd of September 2019, Patriarch Bartholomaios issued a special letter addressed to Abp Jean of Charioupolis blessing him on his way and thanking him for the work that he achieved in the Archdiocese. It would be wise to consider such a leave (not that frequent in the Church) as a positive act. One can say whatsoever about the twisted and twisting decisions and attitudes of the Phanar staff, the leave for the former Ecumenical Patriarchate hierarch and creator of the French-speaking parish in Geneva allows the man of God to act and continue his route. In that specific situation, it allows him to call the rectors and higumens of his (now former) flock to join the Patriarchate of Moscow.
I repeat: I immediately told this to the archbishop whom I met incidentally at the Rue Daru last Saturday night.
Who is the First? How far hierarchs, clergy and laity are entitled – for what reasons – to act by trespassing the Canon Laws that allowed them to live within the substantial reality of the Orthodox Body? When Abp. Jean went out to smear the foreheads of the faithful during the Vigils, he made an act that he normally is no more canonically “entitled” to perform in the parishes where he still acts as the head of the structure. Of course, Metropolitan Emmanuel did not show. Nor the “new Dean”. But, according to the rules, he should no more serve and be present as a serving hierarch without the blessing of the local metropolitan, i.e. Emmanuel of Gauls.
On Tuesday, Metropolitan Emmanuel wrote a circular to the faithful (and the clergy…?) of the former Archdiocese as it was under the omophoron of the Phanar, asking to keep calm and explaining that he intended to meet with all in due time. On Wednesday the 4th of September, HH. Bartholomaios assigned him as official Locum Tenens.
With or without his consent, Abp Jean (Renneteau) has to accept the decision, even if he can consider that it is not valid and that he refuses the decision. In case of a refusal, he would have to defend his case at the Ecclesiastical Court of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the case of transgression, the “leave” he was granted for positive reasons can turn to some embattled position.
In the meanwhile, the Patriarchate of Moscow keeps silent. Posts and comments are only a sort of online and ongoing nice sharing of some ideas if any.
Strangely enough, the French Republic rules governing the structure of religious associations (associations cultuelles – cult associations) may induce into error. The president of a Church association, dismissed from his status of archbishop should be replaced and stop his activities in the concerned association.
At the moment – but for how long ? – the EGA can take place and will because of the many pending questions. Metropolitan Emmanuel underscores that the date is too close by now to stop the Assembly. He wrote that, after the Canons of the Church, the assembly is not entitled to take any canonically valid decision. Good enough, but in terms of respect of the Laws and Regulations of the French Republic, decisions can be taken in the name of the freedom shared to all parties by the State. a real question of “laïcité”.
Where to go? With whom? How each parish, monastery, Skit, nuns, priests, hegumens can reach an agreement that could be legal in terms of the French Laws with regards to the cult associations, but not according to the canonical decisions taken by the Phanar toward Abp Jean of Charioupolis?
Then, a large part of the Archdiocesan Council includes people from Belgium, for instance. This means that, since the Phanar decision dated August 31, 2019, they are no more under the omophorion of Abp Jean of Charioupolis, neither are they under the authority of Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gauls. They should act under the blessing and omophorion of Metropolitan Athenagoras (Peckstadt) of Belgium, Patriarchate of Constantinople and Head of the Conference of the Bishops. For some priestly personalities, this could open up again some recent wounds. It could also mean that the positive letter of leave granted to Abp Jean of Charioupolis personally turns to draw the attention of many in Belgium that they are duly under the authority of their local Church of Belgium, headed by Metropolitan Athenagoras.
The British clergy and laity are also a full part of the Archdiocese, though located beyond the Channel and having experienced hardships in their obedience – from the Moscow eparchy led by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Surozh till they chose to join the Archdiocese – then under the omophorion of late Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder) of Comane.
I had directly followed this case of the Heilige Nikolai Menighet in Norway that developed throughout the country. They could not reach to an agreement with Abp Jean of Charioupolis. They voted, according to the Statutes provided by the Norwegian Law. The monastery and those linked to it decided to leave the Archdiocese. They did not receive any “leave” from the Archdiocese nor accepted to get one. They passed to the Serbian patriarchate, maybe temporarily. The same is developing in Denmark. In Sweden, Finland the Greek metropolia took in the Russian tradition congregations. The situation can be difficult in the Netherlands.
In my opinion, Moscow had anticipated the present development since they appointed Abp Elisey Ganaba in the Netherlands after he had served for some years in the Diocese of Surozh . Incidentally he had been the rector of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem just as Abp Tikhon of Berlin and Germany. Both switched to the “other part” of Western and Central Europe before the revamping of the Russian Orthodox structures in Europe.
The “embattled aspect of the situation” is also shown by the fact that when speaking of the Patriarchate of Moscow, some faithful and priests say that there is full collusion between Church – Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow and the government of the Federation of Russia. They consider that the Church is protected and depends on the decisions of the Russian Federation administration that controls and/or impose the decision to the Church leaders and people.
It is thus amusing to note that in the case of the Archdiocese, French Laws seemingly protect the belongings, properties, buildings, houses, churches, cemeteries because they are under the ownership of cult associations that should be considered as distinct from the Church jurisdictions.
A last point: there is no evidence that all of the 93 priests and lay representatives will accept to vote to join the Patriarchate of Moscow. Frankly, this is just a native move, normal historic reunification that has been discussed for almost a century. Constantinople has called to such a decision on several occasions over almost one full century.
The Archdiocese is rooted in the Slavic and Russian Traditions of the Christian Revelation. One cannot twist with history and basic identity. As Metropolitan Evlogyi had felt, it is a commandment to be gathered with the Mother Church, in dire times of apostasy of faith, wars and underground survival. The Church wakes up and faces the hardships of renewed capacities. It redeploys unexpectedly throughout the world. It faces new patterns in order to proclaim the Mystery of redemption.
The whole Church walks in new ways. The heirs of the Archdiocese have the task to courageously face the newness of Orthodoxy… and continue to share the spiritual and theological wealth that they could develop in the name of the Lord, in Western Europe.
(1) “Communiqué of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the future of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches in Western Europe
The Holy Synod met, under the presidency of His All-Holiness, in an ordinary meeting on Thursday, 29th, at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity of Halki, and on Friday, August 30th, 2019, at the Patriarchate. At these meetings, all the items on the agenda, on which the appropriate decisions were taken, were examined. During the work it was decided to grant a canonical leave from the jurisdiction of the Most Holy Ecumenical, Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne to the Archbishop of Charioupolis Mgr Jean, in his personal capacity and solely for him, as a consequence of which this it is finally unloaded from the care of the parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe, the responsibility of the communities of France of the former exarchate being handed over to the local archipastor, the Metropolitan Mgr. Emmanuel, who with pastoral sensitivity will take care of the follow-up of these. In addition, the Holy Synod appointed as superior of the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Paris the reverend archpriest Alexis Struve, a university professor. With regard to the communities in the other Western European countries of the former Exarchate, these come under the canonical protection and pastoral responsibility of the respective hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who have the pastoral charge of the dioceses of the in these countries.”
À Son Excellence, l’Archevêque Jean de Charioupolis, à Paris,
Par cette lettre patriarcale, en reconnaissance de votre profond désir de vous placer sous l’homophore de sa Béatitude le Patriarche de Moscou et de toute la Russie, comme vous l’avez exprimé à plusieurs reprises en paroles et en actes, nous vous libérons, à titre uniquement personnel, de notre très saint trône œcuménique, apostolique et patriarcal, et nous vous souhaitons paternellement d’être conduit par les bénédictions et la grâce de notre Seigneur et Dieu et Sauveur Jésus-Christ et que son infinie miséricorde soit toujours avec vous.
Cela signifie qu’à présent votre Excellence n’est plus responsable de quelque manière que ce soit des affaires des paroisses de tradition russe en Europe occidentale.
30 août 2019
+ Le Patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée
Frère bien-aimé en Christ
Suite à la publication de la lettre patriarcale concernant le congé canonique pour l’archevêque Jean de Charioupolis, Mgr Emmanuel, a envoyé une lettre circulaire que nous publions ci-dessous :
« Chers frères et sœurs dans le Seigneur,
Le 30 août 2019, le Saint Synode du Patriarcat œcuménique a pris la décision, en conformité avec celle prise en novembre 2018, concernant l’ancien Exarchat des paroisses de tradition russe en Europe occidentale, d’octroyer à son Excellence, l’archevêque Jean de Charioupolis, un congé canonique. Ce congé canonique souligne le fait que dorénavant l’archevêque Jean n’a aucune relation avec le Patriarcat œcuménique et avec les communautés de l’ancien Exarchat.
Aussi, à ce jour, son Excellence, l’archevêque Jean ne possède plus aucune autorité spirituelle ni administrative, sur les communautés dont il avait précédemment la charge. L’administration de ces communautés en France est transférée à la Métropole orthodoxe de France du Patriarcat œcuménique. Sa Sainteté le Patriarche m’a désigné pour assurer la fonction de locum tenens durant cette période de transition.
Par conséquent, à ce jour et en conformité avec les décisions prises par le Saint Synode du Patriarcat œcuménique, je vous demande de commémorer mon nom en tant que votre hiérarque au cours des offices liturgiques.
Concernant l’Assemblée Générale Extraordinaire du 7 septembre, je suis conscient que nombre de délégués se sont déjà organisés pour venir à Paris pour cette réunion. Au cas où cette assemblée se tiendrait, sachez qu’elle ne pourra avoir aucun pouvoir décisionnel.
Je compte réunir très prochainement le conseil diocésain pour échanger et faire un point sur la situation.
Par ailleurs, je réitère la proposition que j’ai rendue publique le 7 février dernier à savoir :
- d’assurer, dans le cadre d’un vicariat, le maintien de l’association existante qui continuera à gérer les biens qui lui appartiennent et à fonctionner selon ses propres statuts qu’il faudra probablement adapter,
- de garantir la préservation de votre tradition liturgique et spirituelle russe ainsi que de votre œuvre de témoignage orthodoxe dans les sociétés occidentales.
Tout en comprenant le désarroi de certains, j’aurais à cœur dans les jours, les semaines qui viennent, à vous redire tout mon attachement pour vos communautés, en vous bénissant de tout cœur et en priant notre Seigneur Dieu qu’Il vous comble de sa grâce et ayant toujours en mémoire ces mots du Saint Apôtre Paul : « Nous vous avons exhortés, encouragés, adjurés de mener une vie digne de Dieu qui vous appelle à son Royaume et à sa gloire. » (1 Th 2, 11-12)
+ Le Métropolite Emmanuel, de France »
La métropole grecque-orthodoxe de France a mis en ligne le communiqué suivant :
Protocole n° 641
À Son Éminence, le métropolite Emmanuel de France, exarque pour l’Europe, frère bien-aimé dans l’Esprit-Saint et notre concélébrant, que la grâce et la paix venant de Dieu soient avec vous.
Faisant suite à la décision synodale concernant la remise du congé canonique de notre saint trône apostolique du Patriarcat œcuménique à son Excellence l’archevêque Jean de Charioupolis et à la vacance qui en résulte en France quant à l’association légale de l’« Union directrice des associations orthodoxes russes » dépendant de notre ancien exarchat, nous avons chargé votre Éminence de la fonction de locum tenens en son remplacement, afin d’administrer en accord avec le droit, les affaires de l’association en tant qu’entité soumise à la loi française de 1905.
Entre autres, nous vous avons demandé synodalement d’assumer la responsabilité pastorale des communautés de l’ancien exarchat se trouvant désormais dans votre éparchie. Ayant la certitude que votre Éminence répondra aux attentes du Patriarcat œcuménique, avec votre cohérence connue et votre dévotion.
Que la grâce et l’infinie miséricorde de Dieu soient toujours avec votre Éminence,
2 septembre 2019
+ Le patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée
Frère bien-aimé dans le Seigneur.